Friday, 29 July 2016

Outdoor Education

“In the Kindergarten program, learning in the outdoors is included as part of the instructional day, and the educators play an active role, engaging with children in an inquiry stance as they play, explore, and learn together outside the classroom”

 (Ontario Kindergarten Program, 2016, p. 34). 

You may learn more about Outdoor Education as it pertains to Kindergarten, as well as obtain a copy of the New Kindergarten Program document from EduGAINS.
  • Outdoor Exploration

We co-created a Nature Web with our students of all the possible ways we wished to explore learning in the outdoors.

We began with a Nature Walk as a whole group and then divided in to sub groups for the Scavenger Hunt. The students were able to collect artifacts from nature and record their findings. The students kept track of the artifacts collected in 4 different ways: checkmarks, tally marks, ABC'S, and 123'S. When asked how they counted their tracking we learned they were: counting using 1-1 correspondence, counting by 1's and 5's, addition and one used the tagging strategy. We posted some on the wall to showcase the different ways of thinking and the different strategies used. 

Within the Bachelor of Education program at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology I learned about this great activity where you take a group of students on a Nature walk and have them choose a spot. Next they place their hula hoop over the spot they wish to observe. Then they sit on their sit spots, observe the items in their circle, and draw what they see. We implemented this with our students and they had a blast! They also presented their findings to the class.

 "Teach the children to slow down and spend time and look around them. There is a whole new world"
 (Educator, Outdoor Learning in the Early Years-Beyond the Fence).

Within one of our Mathematics Professional Development Sessions in York Region District School Board, our Math Consultant Heather Jelley shared this lovely learning experience with us! You may take small groups of children or whole groups and assign a child to be the photographer. They take pictures of the math they see in Nature. When you return to the classroom you show the picture to the whole group and ask the children: what math do you see? and record their responses i.e. "I see the number 3, the leaf looks like a 3". At this time you may also record what their math wonders are i.e. "I wonder how many green leaves there are in the picture?" From there you can work with the children to determine possible strategies for solving the math wonder! Such a great learning experience which can also be applied to other subject areas. Books that we used to provide our students with ideas of finding math can be found under "Top 3 Children's books" below.

We read the story "Tap the Magic Tree" and then invited small groups of children on a walk to the nearby forest to collect some artifacts from nature. When we brought them back the children had an opportunity to sort the materials into different bowls (Connection to Mathematics). Once sorted, I set up the provocation and invited students to create either representations of the trees or what ever they wish (Connection to Visual Arts). Many of them chose to create a representation of trees and I have showcased one for each of the seasons, just like in the book! Some of them also decided to draw their representation and label it (Connection to Literacy). Math can also be seen in these photos!

"The outdoor world provides an abundance of resources and materials for supporting learning through the arts" 
(The Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program, 2010-2011, p.17)

Throughout the Spring we continued to re-visit Nature and extend our learning in different ways, through many subject areas. I partnered with Chrysanthos Colour Company to showcase the many ways in which their Trigeod Colour Wheel Puzzle could be used. One activity we implemented was: Finding Colours in Nature. We invited small groups of students on a nature walk and collected as many artifacts we could find that contained the same colours as the Colour Wheel did. After that, we brought everything to the Kindergarten yard table and sorted each of the artifacts according to colour (Math and Visual Arts connection).
Visit their website to learn more about the Colour Wheel or to purchase your own!
  • Leadership Opportunity

Trista Dutt, Lucas Serper, and I had the opportunity to co-facilitate an Outdoor Learning Session within York Region District School Board called Beyond The Fence: The Art of Nature (Resource provided below under Teacher Resources). 

Set up of the Visual Arts learning opportunities and materials we provided.

We provided the educators with a variety of resources and connected our learning opportunities to the York Region District School Board Modern Learning Framework. We offered opportunities for collaboration, creativity, and communication that were flexible in structure (open-ended), and fostered a sense of community, innovation, and growth mindset!

We also connected our learning opportunities to the York Region District School Board Mental Health Strategy. "To help a child self-regulate, we need to consider what stressors in life may be causing behaviours. A visit to the outdoors/nature could help to calm these emotions and assist self-regulation" (Outdoor Learning in the Early Years- Beyond the Fence). Many of our participants made the connection between relaxation and sense of calm with being outdoors.

Samples of the beautiful art pieces created by Educators who participated in our Outdoor Learning Session.

It truly was a great teaching and learning experience!

  • Top 3 Teacher Resources

1. Environmental Education Curriculum Document

This resource document has been prepared to assist teachers in bringing environmental education into the classroom in each subject area in Grades 1 to 8 and Kindergarten programs. In the elementary curriculum, most of the expectations connected explicitly with aspects of environmental education are found in the science and technology curriculum and the social studies, history, and geography curriculum. In other subject areas, connections can be made to environmental topics or issues in various ways, and some suggestions for making such connections are given in brief comments.

2. Outdoor Learning in the Early Years: Beyond The Fence Resource

Click here to obtain this document

"Outdoor learning experiences are becoming increasingly recognized as an integral component of early learning programs. These experiences support children's social-emotional, physical, cognitive, and academic development. Educators are encouraged to consider outdoor spaces, bother within and beyond the fence, as an extension of the classroom. These spaces can serve as a context for children's authentic observations, questions and wonderings which may develop into rich opportunities for further inquiry" (YRDSB).

3. Project WILD & Below Zero

These workshops and resources are provided by the Canadian Wildlife Federation:

  • Hands-on workshops where educators learn how to integrate activities into all subjects.
  • Activity guides featuring more than 150 hands-on, pedagogically proven lesson plans.
  • Program activities that progress from awareness and appreciation to action.

  • Top 3 Children’s Books

1. Alphabet Everywhere by Elliot Kaufman

"There is a world of letters just waiting to be discovered in the world around us -- if we know how to look for it. In this engaging and delightful book, photographer Elliott Kaufman reveals the "secret" life of the alphabet through his photographs, showing how letters can be found in things we encounter everyday. Each letter of the alphabet is represented by multiple images, each unintentionally created by the intersection of architectural details, shadows, light, or natural elements as caught by Kaufman's keen eye. Some are obvious, while others demand a little more imagination to recognize, inviting the readers to start their own game of hunting for letters! This fun approach also reinforces the notion that learning to see the familiar in new ways encourages visual literacy and creativity" (Amazon).

2. Numbers Everywhere by Elliott Kaufman

"As in Alphabet Everywhere, where there was a world of letters just waiting to be discovered, Numbers Everywhere reveals how digits and mathematical symbols can be found in the world around us—if we know how to look for them. In this engaging and delightful book, Kaufman reveals the "secret" life of numbers through his photographs, showing how they can be found in things we encounter everyday. Each number is represented by multiple images, unintentionally created by the intersection of architectural details, shadows, light, or natural elements as caught by the photographer’s keen eye. In “addition"… Numbers Everywhere includes “formulas” for budding mathematicians to solve. This fun approach also reinforces the notion that learning to see the familiar in new ways encourages visual literacy and creativity" (Amazon).

3. Tap the Magic Tree

"Every book needs you to turn the pages. But not every book needs you to tap it, shake it, jiggle it, or even blow it a kiss. Innovative and timeless, Tap the Magic Tree asks you to help one lonely tree change with the seasons. Now that’s interactive—and magical!

It begins with a bare brown tree. But tap that tree, turn the page, and one bright green leaf has sprouted! Tap again—one, two, three, four—and four more leaves have grown on the next page. Pat, clap, wiggle, jiggle, and see blossoms bloom, apples grow, and the leaves swirl away with the autumn breeze. The collage-and-watercolor art evokes the bright simplicity of Lois Ehlert and Eric Carle and the interactive concept will delight fans of Pat the Bunny. Combining a playful spirit and a sense of wonder about nature, Christie Matheson has created a new modern classic that is a winner in every season—and every story time!" (Amazon).

Follow the author Christie Matheson on Instagram and learn more about her new book called: Plant the Tiny Seed!

4. Earth Dance

I couldn't resist, there are so many more beneficial children’s books relating to this topic but I had to share one more. Earth Dance is a book that came out when I was in Kindergarten and this year I shared it with our Kindergarten students so it came full circle. Earth Dance is a great book to connect children to nature. The children made many text-to-text and text-to-self connections and their predictions were out of this world!
  • Additional Resources
For additional resources pertaining to outdoor education please visit my Pinterest account under Outdoor Education. Also visit the Health and Physical Education board as it shares some resources that can be implemented outdoors and describes health benefits for being physically active and improving ones physical literacy. You may also visit my Instagram account to see the work I do with my students on a daily basis and to obtain information and resources on a variety of topics in Education.

  • Benefits of Nature

 ­čî┐children are happier ­čî┐sparks creativity and imaginative play ­čî┐stress and anxiety decreases ­čî┐children are heathier because they are more active ­čî┐increased alertness and ready for learning ­čî┐increased critical thinking ­čî┐increased self-regulation ­čî┐increased self-confidence ­čî┐increased connection and empathy 
(YRDSB Beyond the Fence, 2016). 

"Educators can create contexts that engage children by designing indoor and outdoor learning environments that spark curiosity, invite investigation, and provide challenges that are responsive to individual capabilities to help children extend the boundaries of their learning" 
(How Does Learning Happen?, 2014, p.37)

Please visit Trista Dutt of KindieKorner as well as Lucas Serper of PlayCreateInquire to learn more about their outdoor learning initiatives and programming!